MANILA, Philippines - “Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.” — Kahlil Gibran
Apart from excelling in beauty, grace and intelligence, Shamcey inspired people by eloquently articulating her Christian faith to a global audience. She also always ranked near the highest among fans, topping the Q&A online fan votes with a rating of 7.5 percent and second highest in the swimsuit and evening gown votes. This writer had a three-hour exclusive interview with Shamcey for the Philippine STAR. Here are excerpts:
PHILIPPINE STAR: Where did you get your name?
SHAMCEY SUPSUP: My name was made up by my mother Marcelina Gurrea-Supsup from her reading of Mills & Boon romance novels.
From where is your exotic-sounding surname?
Although we live in a barrio of General Santos City in Mindanao, my father Timoteo Supsup is Ilocano, he’s a small farmer. I heard during World War II, my great-grandfather resisted the Japanese invaders and he had to change our original family name in order to hide, so our surname became Supsup.
As a child, didn’t you get teased by other kids because of your surname?
Yes, madalas akong niloloko (I was often teased) when I was younger and I was often napipikon (irritated). But when I got to high school and college, I had a positive attitude and I believe it became an advantage because my surname has more recall, especially among the teachers.
So you’re not embarrassed by your surname?
You know, when I first got my driver’s license and my surname was called out the people who were there all laughed, but when I stood up, they all fell silent. (Laughs). I’m not ashamed of my family name. Usually at the start of classes, when students’ names are called out one by one, whenever I see a teacher smiling or asking, “How do you pronounce…?”, I raise my hand and say that it’s me, Shamcey Supsup. I’m not embarrassed by my surname. In fact, my friends even got jealous and asked why the professors seemed to like me more because they would call me by my first name while others were called by their surnames. (Laughs).
When I joined the Binibining Pilipinas pageant, some people asked me if I want to drop “Supsup” and use a screen name, but I told them I want to use my surname.
Was it your dream to be a beauty queen? What was your ambition?
At first I wanted to be a civil engineer, because my mom is an engineer. But since I was already into painting as a hobby, my mother wanted me to take up fine arts in college, so I thought, why not go into architecture?
You’re a magna cum laude graduate of architecture from UP, then 2010 architecture board No. 1 topnotcher and now a famous beauty queen. What’s the secret to your success?
I don’t think I’m successful. (Laughs). I just think I’m a disciplined person. If there’s anything needed from me, I will do it well. I have my priorities, such as going to school and studying well. You know, I really love going to school.
Do you also have time to unwind?
I believe that the harder you work, the more you should play hard also and enjoy life.
What are your secrets for getting the highest grades?
I don’t memorize textbooks word for word. I just read, and if time permits, I read the book three times. First, to get an idea; second, to understand the concept; and third, to remember important data very well. It’s important to understand what you’re reading.
You studied in a public school?
Yes, at Makati High School near the poblacion. Vice President Jojo Binay doesn’t know this, but when I was a high school student in 2002, I was a city councilor of Makati for a day. It was a project of the city for young people to act as government officials even for one day.
That’s interesting. Do you see yourself running for public office like our many celebrities?
No, I don’t think I’m into politics.
How was life in a public school?
During my first year in high school, I was at Mindanao State University, which is a science high school. There was a bombing near my school, so my mother wanted me to go to Metro Manila to be safer. I actually first applied to Makati Science High School. Being in public school can actually be an advantage, because you’re exposed to a lot more things — more people, more competitions like quiz bees, leadership training, etc. I was also an exchange student to Japan in September 2001. I went to Tokyo on Sept. 10, 2001, then the next day the terrorist bombings in New York, USA, of 9/11 happened.
Was studying in a public school a disadvantage?
It’s OK to study in a public school, especially if you’re in the first section or the top section. But there are disadvantages, too, like most public schools are too congested. In our batch, there were 30 sections, and there were two shifts of students using the classrooms daily. I studied from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., the second shift was from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Did you complain?
I didn’t complain, but I often asked my parents why they enrolled me in a public school. My mom explained, “It’s not the school. It’s up to the student if he/she wants to excel or not.”
You didn’t pay any tuition fees?
My tuition was free. There should be more and better public schools nationwide, hopefully with less problems like congested classrooms or lack of support for teachers.
How did public school help mold you to become the person you are today?
I think it made me more humble as a person. Some of my classmates really had hard lives. We were not rich, but I used to be hatid-sundo (was fetched to and from school). I felt discriminated against and they didn’t like to be with me, so I learned to ride the jeepney every day to be with my schoolmates. It was a simple life, I ate street food like ice candy and enjoyed it.
Who’s your No. 1 inspiration in life behind your success ethic?
My mother. I’m inspired by her guts. She started out in Basilan, then in Zamboanga. She was poor, but she was a scholar and excelled in school. She was one of the only two or three female engineers then at Mindanao State University. She’s very ambitious and her dreams of a better life brought her places.
Who are the architects you most admire and why?
Santiago Calatrava of Spain. I like his works. He’s an engineer and an architect who designs not just buildings, but also elegant bridges that look like harps with beautifully-designed steel tension rods like the strings of a musical instrument. His designs are not only beautiful, but each with a purpose. I also admire the Iraqi-born Zaha Hadid, the first woman and I think also the first Muslim to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize. She’s my inspiration. I hope to also someday win this or be a National Artist because no female architect in the country has received that honor yet.
Since you love art, who’s your favorite painter?
My former mentor Bal Fornaliza of Manila. He’s talented, but didn’t have a formal art education. He just watched people paint and learned from them. He paints using the palette knife. I had lessons with him when I was in high school.
What is your medium in painting?
I like oil, pastel on paper and watercolor. I have done about 10 works. I stopped painting five years ago, but I want to start again. In the talent portion of the Binibining Pilipinas pageant, I did an artwork of a mother and child on stage with Mozart as background music.
Any favorite painter in world history?
I like Leonardo da Vinci, because he was the best example of a Renaissance man. He was an engineer, artist, philosopher, writer, etc. That was my dream before. I wanted to be like him, who’s good at everything.
I heard you love reading. What are your favorite books?
I enjoy simple books, like Harry Potter. (Laughs). When I was in Japan as an exchange student, my host family gave me the first Harry Potter novel, which I read in one night only. I’ve actually read the entire Harry Potter series 10 times, because I’m hooked on this saga. The author J. K. Rowling is very talented. The story is simple but makes you believe in a world like that. Other books I enjoy are the suspense and mystery novels of Agatha Christie. What I like about all her novels is they’re unpredictable, there’s always a unique twist in the plot. I want to have a collection of all her novels.
So you’d design your house to have a library?
Yes, that’s my dream home — a house with its own library located on the second floor, so even if a big flood like Ondoy happens, my books will not be destroyed.
Anne Curtis told me she’s a bookworm. Sharon Cuneta and Kris Aquino love books, too, so you’re a bookworm, too?
Reading is my favorite hobby. It relaxes me. In the rural area of General Santos where we live, there was no TV, no computer, no telephone. Our barangay Katangawan is secluded, so I always bring a lot of books to read to pass the time away.
You don’t go out much for gimmicks like other young people?
I don’t go to malls or party like most people. I prefer to stay at home.
Now that you’re very famous, do you have plans to enter showbiz?
No plans to be an artista. Do you know what? My original dream was to be an astronaut. Years later, I told my parents I wanted to study aeronautics, but my mom discouraged me because “it’s a guy’s profession.” (Laughs). I always want to challenge myself.
What are your beauty secrets?
I sleep a lot, usually eight to 10 hours daily. When you’re well-rested, you feel good and it makes you less grumpy. If I lack sleep, it makes me feel irritable. Also, as much as possible, I wear no makeup.
How did you become No. 1 in the architecture board exams last year?
I was already working as a job site or project architect for Design Coordinators, Inc. when I took my review classes. I then decided to resign from work to focus on my studies. I took review classes in February and the board exam was in June. I didn’t tell my friends that I went to two review classes because they would surely tease me for over-studying. I kept it a secret. There are no short- cuts to success.
Back to your dream house; how would you design it?
My dream house would be simple and small. I want a library, a small media room like a four-seater mini-cinema with good acoustics. I want more open spaces and a garden. I’m more of a minimalist. I don’t like too many embellishments. My type of architecture is more simple lines lang. Gusto ko (I want) every design to have a purpose. There should also be natural ventilation, and natural lighting.
That’s almost like physics or feng shui?
We should know where the north is; and that the house should be facing east. The orientation of the morning sun is the best location for the bedrooms. Wind patterns also need to be studied. There should be vents. If a house is designed well, there’s no need for air-conditioning.
As an architect, what should our cities be like ideally?
We should strictly follow the building code in constructions, like the need for setbacks and not puro (all) firewalls. We should have more green spaces, and better urban masterplans. Cities should ideally have more pedestrian walks and less congested roads. Let us also not demolish all the old buildings of our cities like Manila; we should do adaptive re-use of certain structures. For example, an old hospital can become a museum.
What advice can you give Filipinos?
I believe we should all help the country progress. Do not put all the blame and responsibilities only on the government. I believe it’s not good if people keep criticizing but do not help. I believe the country needs more teamwork; we need to help out.
How do you assess the leadership of P-Noy?
I think not everyone’s perfect, but he’s our president and he deserves to be respected. Let us be generous in our appreciation but less in our criticisms, because he’s only one person and most people do not appreciate it if a leader does well and we tend to criticize a lot when bad things happen. That’s also probably the reason some very good leaders are tired of doing good things, because we don’t appreciate much. If a leader makes one small mistake, pinapalaki (we make it big), kaya (that’s why) we’re not progressing.
What was the reaction of your friends to a top scholar joining a beauty contest?
They were shocked when I joined.
What is your advice to your fellow young people?
Try to be someone. Do not settle for anything less. Do not be complacent with the status quo. Try to be better. Contribute to progress, don’t just be nakiki-uso (being a conformist). Think and try new ideas, new things, be innovative in different fields. I like one of UP’s mantras: “When everyone is sitting down, we stand up. When everyone is standing up, we stand out.” We should all try to be better, to go to another level.
If you were president of the Philippines even for just one day, what would you want to do?
Give quality, free education. I think this is one of the things we really need. We must give the youth a good education. I want to improve the quality of Philippine education, especially in public schools. My next priority would be to help our teachers.
Is it true you want to be a student again?
I want to be a student all my life, because you will never get old (laughs).
As an architect, what is your dream project?
A bridge. I already designed this in school. It’s only small-scale and made of barbecue sticks, but that bridge was designed in such a way that it can carry six big-sized people!
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